George Ranch Historical Park, only half an hour southwest of Houston, is more than a representation of Texas history?it?s the hundred-year story of a ranching family who lived their lives on the park?s very soil. The attractions tell their story, beginning with the Jones Stock Farm?a cattle operation circa 1830?where interpreters demonstrate old-fashioned skills amidst a traditional dog-trot log cabin. The Ryon Prairie Home unveils an 1860s image of a Texas Ranch home in the golden age of the cattle drive, and the Davis Mansion contains artifacts from Victorian-era Texas enjoyed by the wealthiest citizens of the 1890s. The final site, the George Ranch Complex, demonstrates ranching life as it happened in the 1930s, including barn structures and daily cattle demonstrations. Guides show off each building and era with historic tours, demonstrations, and living history exhibits such as a working blacksmith shop.
The park?s directors breathe life back into this history with interactive events, as well. They also schedule an array of yearly events such as military reenactments, and holiday-themed history lessons.
If it weren’t for the railroad, there would be no Rosenberg. In 1880 the Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe Company extended their tracks across those of another railway, creating a junction that they named after the railway’s president, Henry von Rosenberg. All that remains of this junction’s original depot, from which the town of Rosenberg grew, is the signal tower, which is now the centerpiece of Rosenberg Railroad Museum’s collection of historic railcars and other railway paraphernalia.
Representing the full spectrum of passenger railcars, the collection includes a caboose—the living quarters of a train conductor—and a Canadian government business car, which in the 1920s had been appointed to transport dignitaries and prime ministers in comfort. At the museum’s education center, an HO-gauge model train gives visitors a macro view of a rail network, and, up in the signal tower, an interlocking machine lets visitors play at train traffic control, using the same switches the towerman flipped back in 1903 to make sure only one train was routed through a junction at a time and no trains were routed down the tracks that just led straight off the edge of the world.
In Houston, September beats out July and August for the hottest month of the year—it has nothing to do with the weather, however. The culprit behind the elevated heat level is the Houston Hot Sauce Festival. This annual event brings together exhibitors from across the country to sell and hand out samples of their signature hot sauces, salsas, jams, dips, and other spicy foods. Luckily, vendors also supply plenty of cool beverages, thus eliminating the need for bite-size fire extinguishers.
Live entertainment complements the spicy goods. Blues artists, jazz bands, and other musician play throughout the festival, and each day brings special events, such as salsa eating competitions or fire eating performances.
Mysterious fires. An old bank vault that can’t be destroyed. A deceased opera singer who refuses to draw the curtain on the living world. These are the stories that Houston Ghost Tour’s seasoned phantom chasers impart to mortals as they guide them to local nooks and crannies where spectral squatters may dwell. Guests on the Houston tour tiptoe through the ghostly grounds of Rice University and explore Hermann Park, where the songs from Miller Outdoor Theatre and animalistic shrieks from the Houston Zoo converge to form an eerie soundtrack for sleuthing. Travelers drink in local history during the Old Town Spring adventure, which teems with tales of Civil War battles, high-stakes gambling bets, and brothels filled with the ghosts of bats forever tangled up in lingerie. Along the way, guests can also glimpse the bullet holes of a bank robbed by Bonnie and Clyde. The Tomball tour explores a paranormal train depot and a cemetery that, like an igloo made of dry ice, is said to have vanished into thin air.
After a brief training session, the expert guides of Segway-authorized SegCity Houston herd up to eight gliders perched effortlessly atop Segway I2s. All mechanical roadsters are designed to handle the rocky off-road terrains of the Trail Blazin' tour, which weaves through forest trails dappled with sunlight. The Adventure Trail tour grants riders a behind-the-scenes peek at Burroughs Park as they whir past trees, humming wildlife, and a sparkling lake. Tours safely run rain or shine, only halting for exceptionally icy or stormy weather or passing herds of lake monsters.
While many children learn by performing hands-on tasks, school systems have yet to figure out how to incorporate gardens, imagination workshops, and towering aqueduct mazes into their budgets. With 90,000 square feet of hands-on exhibits, the Children's Museum of Houston, which was recently featured in The Wall Street Journal, sparks creativity by allowing kids to explore 14 learning stations. Ranked No. 1 among the 10 best children's museums in the nation by Parents magazine, named one of the 12 best children's museums in the country by Forbes.com and one of the 10 best by USA TODAY, and voted Best Museum in 2010, 2012, 2013, and 2014 by the Houston A-List Poll, the museum has accrued a lot of praise. The Huffington Post has also given a nod to the Children's Museum of Houston, which encourages children to explore their curious nature with a variety of interactive exhibits. Exhibits include the interactive EcoStation, a solar-powered outdoor utopia with activities such as stream creation and leaf rubbing that inspire kids to think about environmental responsibility. At the Invention Convention workshop, kids can explore engineering possibilities with building blocks, propellers, and even basic robotics. The sprawling cityscape of Kidtropolis invites children to participate in a simulated economy. The experience requires them to earn paychecks, budget money on pretend debit cards, vote for political candidates, and learn how to obsessively check milk expiration dates at the onsite grocery store. Their newest cultural exhibit, Heart and Seoul: Growing Up in Korea, explores the county's fashion, film, music, and cuisine, aiming to bring modern-day South Korea to the Houston area.